How to Tell When You Receive a Fake Collections Notice . . .

31 Jul

This morning my husband was taken in by a fake collections notice, in this case, supposedly from an EZ Pass company claiming he had driven on toll roads without paying the toll.

Since probably 1000 of our friends may have received the same notice today, let me quickly go through the steps I took to review this email before I deleted it (I never clicked on the enclosure, which could have been the source of hostile code, also known as a virus, which would then attempt to install itself on my computer or our network).

As my first clue, I am not positive, but I believe that collections notices do not come via email. I will check this with my friend who works collections, but I believe they have to use an actual physical address to go after someone. An email address may help track someone down, but I don’t believe you can legally send them threats to take action via email communications.

However, even if that were a legal way to contact me about a debt, the bottom line is that we did not incur that debt. How do I know?

1) The person sending the fake collections notice did not even bother to spoof his email address. It did not come from anything designed to look like an EZ Pass company. It came from a private email address. So look at the address of the sender first.

2) Remember that anyone can fake a company’s picture, very easily, just by going to Google Images and rightclicking a picture to copy it. So I dismissed the EZ Pass picture outright.

3) The email did not use Noel’s or my name, only his email address. We have an iPass transponder (from the state of Illinois) but it is registered to *my* email, not Noel’s. And, if they had a record of that, they would realize that it was probably a case of my transponder not working correctly, and not a case of stealing access to toll roads by going through the transponder lane without a transponder . . .

4) No one ever hauls an email address into court for a collections case. If the email can’t identify my husband or me by name, it can’t be claiming to be ready to sue us.

5) Our license plates are not tied to our email accounts either. Nowhere on this planet (and this is what I had to say to Noel to get him to understand). We may have given the DMV our emails in order to facilitate communications, but any company attempting to collect tolls from our Virginia license plates would need to utilize the Virginia DMV to do so. Again, the DMV would give them our names and addresses in that case. They would not be contacting us via email. I doubt the DMV would even give out our emails if it were subpoenaed to give collections information. What good would the emails do? Better to give out the actual address where we live.

6) The grammar of the email sent to Noel was shaky. Now I realize there are plenty of Americans who can’t write standard English. But an email that leaves out indefinite and definite articles may originate in Russia, where they don’t *use* indefinite and definite articles in the Russian language. I am 75% sure the email did not come from anywhere in the U.S.

So … I deleted that email. There are laws protecting us as citizens. We don’t need to be afraid when unscrupulous people seize on the latest trend of using transponders to pay tolls and try to claim money from us that we don’t owe.

P.S. We use our transponder just often enough that I review the statement every couple of months to ensure that we were charged for everything we used and *not* incorrectly charged for someone else’s activity!

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